Forlorn Luxury – 1978 BMW 733i

In between featuring several sporty coupes inspired by last week’s Subaru BR-Z rental, it’s important not to let a couple of other interesting deals slip through our hands. And speaking of general bloat and jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none, look at what’s happened to the BMW 7-series since the original E23 version debuted in 1977. And on top of that, the remaining original cars have depreciated quite significantly, such that you can pick up a semi-running car for a 3-digit price. Check out this 1978 BMW 733i for sale for $500 in Stevenson, WA.

1978 BMW 733 left front

Black suits these cars pretty well, and with the benefit of hindsight, the once-common turbine wheels look great on the big BMWs. On the surface, what you can see here is a faded car with a smashed windshield that’s sunken into the ground. However, if you’re an eternal optimist you’ll look past that and see a fairly clean, grey-market E23 that’s retained its European-market bumpers and big-and-little headlamp setup.

1978 BMW 733 interior

Looking more into detail, the seller says everything on the dash is written in German – has it retained its metric speedometer, and if so, are the 141,000 miles actually kilometers? Either way, the basic engine should have a fair amount of life left in it. Said to start but not stay running, it could have any number of issues – the seller speculates it’s a failed fuel pump or filter, and while you’ll want to replace all filters, it could also be muck in the fuel system from long-term storage, or perhaps an issue with the injectors. Critically, while the seller indicates the car has an automatic transmission, the interior shot shows a shifter that looks suspiciously like a manual. Do you dare look under those mangy seat covers?

1978 BMW 733 data plate

Here’s a critical piece- the data plate showing the car was imported legally, and that it’s been approved for use in California. M30 six-cylinder engines are still readily available, even in self-service junkyards, so if this one’s a mess, it shouldn’t be hard to get a replacement. And if you like to rely on foolish tools like math to rationalize your old car decisions, the European parts should be worth enough to make back your purchase price. Is it worth bringing this early manual E23 back from the dead?


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